The bulk of Fate Stay Night’s plot relies heavily on protagonist Shirou’s conflict with his ideals, his relationships with the three main heroines, and his dream of one day becoming a hero of justice or an ideal hero to everyone. While you have the power to influence Shirou’s decisions, namely which route to pick among the three and which girl he should pursue, or better yet, how not to land in a Bad End (unless you want to see all those wacky Tiger Dojo antics, which you can only watch if you deliberately get Bad Ends - we all know you do -), most of the decisions in the VN are heavily reliant on you acting like Shirou and not as yourself, which is proof that Shirou is not your average run in the mill vanilla self-insert MCs in VNs nowadays (trust me, some of the “rational” choices there in the game are guaranteed to net you Bad Ends). Regardless of what anyone thinks of him as a character, it’s generally agreed that Shirou is one of the, if not the most complex MC in VN history.
On the other hand, while we all know that Shirou is the overall narrator and main character of the popular VN Fate/Stay Night, since it centers on his growth in different ways in all three routes (UBW being my favorite overall), Rin is the second most important character in the whole VN and I’m saying this not because I’m biased towards her, but because compared to Sakura and Saber, whose roles may be minimal outside their routes, Rin’s importance in all three routes never diminishes, regardless of her not being the main heroine of Fate and HF. There’s also the fact that her development heavily mirrors and runs parallel to Shirou’s in the entire VN, developing alongside him even outside UBW, and that she’s the narrator and MC in both the Prologue and the Epilogue of the game. She gets to narrate several times in UBW too. Love interest in the route or not, she’s definitely the main heroine here, even if Saber’s the poster girl for the series (Dang you Takeuuuuchiiiii!!!).
By the way, they’re also the selectable main characters in the FHA mini-game Capsule Servant, so there.
Them aside, Saber gets the bulk of the focus in the Fate route, relegating Shirou’s MC status to that of a supporting protagonist (he’s still the main POV, but doesn’t quite have the hand on the plot compared to the next two routes), while Sakura is the main love interest in Heaven’s Feel, as the “princess” Shirou has to rescue amid the gray morality he faces there and the dark machinations behind the HGW.
In Fate/ Unlimited Codes, literally everyone in FSN (except Kuzuki for some reason tbh) is the protagonist, unlike Melty Blood since FUC is an alternate retelling of FSN in each of the characters’ POV.
Fate/Prototype and Fragments of Silver and Blue (prequel):
Protagonist: Ayaka Sajyou (Fate/Prototype) and Manaka Sajyou (Fragments of Silver and Blue prequel series)
Before Shirou, Rin and gender-flipped King Arthur existed, there was the shy but strong-willed Ayaka Sajyou and her Servant, the actual male King Arthur, Saber. Being Rin, Shirou, and Sakura’s prototype (being the main character with a penchant for attracting people of the opposite gender without really trying, she’s Shirou. Backstory, magical potential, relationship with her Servant, and personality-wise, she’s a fusion between Rin and Sakura), it would’ve been interesting to see if Nasu actually went through with this project before FSN. Would’ve been fun, I guess.
Then there was her crazy older sister, Manaka Sajyou, who is the main villain of the main series and the villain protagonist of Prototype’s prequel novel, Fragments of Silver and Blue, who serves as Ayaka’s Saber’s original Master there. If you gotta ask who she was prototype of in FSN, I’d say she’s a mix between FSN!Illya (inability to grow, plus her sweet childishness and sociopathic personality but without her heroic and sympathetic traits),Dark Sakura (her scary, psychopathic personality, insanity, and her connection to the Greater Grail. Unlike D!Sakura though, Manaka was already purposely and intentionally evil from the start whereas prior to darkening and after a series of breaking, Sakurawas corrupted whereasManaka didn’t need to be). If the novel’s anything, Manaka, powerlevel-wise, is, according to Nasu, omnipotence in human form. Poor Ayaka has a lot of problems in store for her.
Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya:
Protagonist: Illyasviel von Einzbern
Deuteragonist: Miyu Edelfelt
It’s a world where Illya gets to finally live a happy, normal (well, not for long) life in contrast to her FSN counterpart whose life was anything but unicorns and rainbows, what more could you ask for?
Because their backgrounds are staunchly different from one another, the Illya in this verse is much more relaxed (well, if you don’t count her exasperation sometimes to her friends’ hijinks), is happier (yay!), is actually a regular (by a certain definition) kid instead of the experimented homunculus we all love, and is much, much more genuinely heroic than FSN!Illya, who is more than happy to give you one horrific Bad End to the next (she is heroic though, but is much more sociopathic than Prisma!Illya). She’s also a Magical Girl here, so yay!.
As for Miyu, she makes an awesome foil to this verse’s Illya and their relationship as friends is really sweet. Without spoiling much of the plot, let’s just say that Miyu here is the Fate! equivalent to PMMM’s Homura Akemi with a dash of Fate from Nanoha mixed into her. In the Fate ‘verse? She’s basically Sakura backstory-wise while she has bits of Alice’s (from Mahoyo) personality down.
Protagonist: Kiritsugu Emiya
Deuteragonist: Kirei Kotomine
Tritagonist: Waver Velvet
(All three are at the center)
In this story, we get to see how big of a contrast Kiritsugu was to Shirou back before the events of FSN happened as an ally of justice despite having nearly the same dreams and ideals with each other, and wow, what a difference
(if you don’t count the Mind of Steel Bad End in HF and his other, possible future self that is *wink wink*)! Fate Zero shows us the inevitable tragic outcome of events that led to Kiritsugu’s ideals betraying him and ultimately destroying him by the end of Zero’s HGW and before the very start of FSN’s story.
Kirei gets to be the main antagonist and deut as well for being in direct opposition to Kiritsugu and the role his growth plays in the story (oh, you get to see how Team Yuetsu’s formed too). From passive foe with deep-seated issues he himself can’t even comprehend, to ironically a conscientious, sociopathic villain who takes glee in seeing people suffer before him, Kirei’s actions and machinations throughout the entire plot move the story along while building up a climactic climax and destined clash between him and Kiritsugu.
And finally, Waver’s character development here serves to give us the more traditional and heroic coming of age story in contrast to his fellow MCs above who followed a more nominally heroic, and in Kirei’s case, descent into villainy route. The story puts in a lot of focus on his relationship with his Rider too, and I’m glad they did ‘cause they delivered their development well. Oh, and he pops up in the epilogue of the 2015 UBW anime too as a special cameo.
Fate/Extra and Fate/Extra CCC
Protagonist: Hakuno(M)/ Hakunon(F) Kishinami
Deuteragonist: The Servant of the player’s choice: Saber (Nero), Archer (EMIYA), Caster (Tamamo no Mae) and in CCC, Gilgamesh
Compared to most silent MCs in their position, the Kishinamis of your choice have an actual personality and you don’t have to fill in the blanks yourself to imagine what they’re like, even though you don’t get to hear or see them speak in the entirety of your playthrough (you do get to see what goes on in their heads at least).
As for the Servants, well, let’s just say that their backgrounds and relationships with Hakunon/ Hakuno are of equal importance to the game’s plot.
Protagonist: Bazett Fraga Mcremitz and Servant Avenger (Angra Mainyu)
Heroine: Caren Ortensia
Putting aside the SOL scenarios in FHA which focus more on the FSN crew having fun, we have the main plot of Bazett, an Enforcer from Mage’s Association who wakes up under strange circumstances with no recollection of the events that happened to her prior to the events of the 5th HGW whatsoever. Discovering a mysterious entity known as the Avenger-class Servant, or simply Avenger, who happens to look exactly like a darker version of a certain MC, Bazett finds out that every time she and Avenger die, time would always rewind itself to the first day of the events of FHA, creating a time loop with some deviations in the events that occur each time. In the midst of it all is Caren Ortensia, a mysterious nun who appears in Fuyuki to serve as Kirei’s replacement as both local priest and overseer. Just what is her connection to that fake priest? To find out, play the game, or, watch Carnival Phantasm.
Protagonists: Kane Himuro, Yukika Saegusa and Kaede Makidera
This comedic 4-koma series follows the lives of the track trio, and tells us what they did while the 5th HGW was taking place in FSN. Hilarity ensues.
Protagonist: Literally all the contenders present, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu get emphasized focus here
Both the novel and the manga have no real set main protagonist in this Fate entry since literally everyone gets the limelight and their own personal chapters with them as the main character, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s stories are given the bigger spotlight here, at least in the earliest chapters.
Protagonists: Ruler (Jeanne d’ Arc) and Homunculus (eventually, Sieg)
The events of Apocrypha revolve around the battle between the Red and Black factions, and while the moral alignments between each side would vary, it’d be a bad idea to make any of the members of either team as a central protagonist without any biases on the side they’re on whatsoever. So the best choice for central protagonist/s would be someone from a neutral faction. This is why the Ruler faction, consisting of Ruler herself and the homunculus Sieg, are the main POVs and the main contenders of Apocrypha’s take on the HGW. Seeing the events of a War they’re not supposed to have direct participation in (Ruler’s job as an overseer of the War prohibits her from directly interfering in it unless the Grail is endangered) through their POV is a breath of fresh air.
Protagonist/s: Shirouko and Rin-kun, I mean, Gudako and Gudao (Ritsuka Fujimaru for the male protagonist in the First Order anime)
Heroine/Deuteragonist: Mashu Kyrielite
Okay, those aren’t their official names, but that’s what the official 4koma and promotional materials called them so we’re sticking to them alright?
So the mobile game follows their exploits as the new members of the organization Chaldea, and they’re tasked to save the future from its foreseen inevitable end by competing in many different HGWs throughout different timelines. They also have the ability to summon more than one Servant too (that is if Kirei doesn’t spook you, otherwise…). Always faithfully by their side is FGO’s main heroine Mashu Kyrielite, their beloved kouhai who is fused with an unnamed Servant who wields a large and powerful shield in combat, using that Servant’s skills to fight and to protect the protagonist/s in battle.
Welp. That’s everyone folks! Tell me if I’m missing some people or otherwise. Toodles!
The Tochô’s brains, who has the power of dream-seeing.
A calm, composed existence [who is] like the Tochô’s adviser. Like Sakura, he can see the future in dreams. He saw not only that Kamui and Subaru, [as well as] Syaoran and the others would arrive, but he also promptly became aware of Sakura’s emergency.
In the same manner as Sakura and others, he sees the future when he is sleeping. However, apparently it does not mean that they can see at will.
I suppose this place is the country called ‘Tokyo,’ so to speak.
The Tochô’s [young man like an] elder brother, who is kind to everybody
The mediator of the Tochô members, who are full of individuality. He is moderate, tender in demeanor, and he never gets rid of his smiling face. He is open-minded and readily accepts Syaoran and the others, who were complete strangers that suddenly appeared in Tokyo.
As their senior, it also happens that he admonishes the hot-blooded members [of the Tochô]. Apparently he is relied on very much.